TV: Living with Yourself (Season 1)

November 14, 2019

Netflix’s new series Living with Yourself probably sold itself on the pitch alone. Imagine, if you will, an elevator: “Paul Rudd accidentally clones himself.” A can’t-miss proposition, surely? In reality, the show is a quirky dramedy that’s tonally odd and less than compelling.

Rudd stars as Miles Elliot, an advertising copywriter who lives a quiet, ordinary life in the suburbs with his interior decorator wife Kate (Aisling Bea). Miles is run-down, burned out, and discontent, and it’s threatening to ruin his once-idyllic marriage. One day, a co-worker tips him off about an amazing spa that can transform his life, converting him from a disappointed shell of a person into a brand-new, effective version of himself. Depressed and desperate, Miles follows up on this wild solution, which involves forking over a vast sum of a money to mysterious Japanese scientists in a shady stripmall. Something goes wildly wrong, however, and Miles wakes up in a shallow grave in New Jersey, only to find that he’s been replaced by new and improved clone — who has stolen his house, his job, and his wife.

Conceptually, Living with Yourself should be a hilarious vehicle for a comedic actor of Rudd’s caliber, but it’s surprisingly gray and distancing. There are moderately interesting flourishes, like its viewpoint-hopping, iterative structure, and a buried message about being true to yourself, despite your blemishes and frustrations. But I found this point difficult to reach, because I was put off by the dreary pacing and thin world-building, particularly the weak exploitation of the science fictional premise. For such a short season, it feels woefully low on story. Rudd does well enough interacting with himself in dueling personas, and Bea is a fetching and sympathetic foil. But ultimately this is a show that I soldiered through, rather than savoring.